August 16, 2012 Leave a comment
By Hector Tobar Los Angeles Times
You may be old enough to remember the era in the United States lamented for its passing by authors Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele on nearly every page of their new book, “The Betrayal of the American Dream.”
In that bygone America, you could buy bell-bottom pants, a color television or a pair of high-platform shoes and very likely find a label on those products saying “Made in the U.S.A.” American companies made big profits, but they invested in the local communities where their products were made. The rich paid their fair share in taxes.
Bartlett and Steele pinpoint the moment when this America began to disappear as June 1979. More people were employed at U.S. factory jobs at that time than during any month before or since. About the same time, the share that the wealthiest Americans paid in taxes began to fall sharply.
American factory jobs soon started migrating to Mexico, and then to China. Not long afterward, all sorts of other tasks once performed by the guy next door — including your friendly customer service representative — were performed elsewhere, such as Bangalore, India, and Taipei, Taiwan.
Since then, three decades of laissez-faire business strategies and government policies have undercut the American middle class and the underpinnings of American democracy. At least, that’s the central argument of “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” a book that’s essential reading for those trying to make sense of our country’s current malaise.
Since the 1980s, a host of politicos, both Republican and Democrat, have sold their business-friendly reforms to the American people in the name of economic efficiency: Corporate America saves, and we all save! But the real winner, Bartlett and Steele argue, is the American “ruling class.” Among other things, the economic elite have quietly, methodically and ruthlessly restructured the tax code on behalf of the wealthiest Americans, the authors say. Tax cuts on unearned income and carried interest allow the richest of the rich to pay less income tax with each passing year.
“America’s founders, who were very well aware of how the aristocracy rigged the system to guarantee its own perpetuation, up to and including the king, would shudder,” Bartlett and Steele observe. With the American middle class under assault, the United States now is increasingly divided between rich and poor. In “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” the U.S. ruling class is portrayed as eating the American middle class for lunch and giving the leftovers to the impoverished, incipient middle classes in China and India.